Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Sometimes we experience a trauma so horrific that we feel we must acquire justice.  We fight the feelings of sadness, depression, the loss of innocence and trust that comes when others hurt us.  And although all of our feelings are valid and important to express and honor, forgiveness is the highest goal that we can aspire to achieve.
Holding vengeful feelings and grudges affects the mental and physical body in negative ways.  Therefore, it is important for each of us to learn to forgive.  This action is not done for the person for whom the grudge has been held but for the holder of that grudge.  Anger, hatred, and the loss of life force are expensive, and the damage done to our own lives comes with costly repairs.
Although it may seem impossible to forgive certain people in our lives, and vengeance seems the sweeter deal, the costs are most often prohibitive.  Think about the fact that it may take days, weeks, months or even years to acquire the just punishment for the crime done against you; however, you are the one who has been suffering all of that time with all of that hatred, anger, and rage inside of your body, dimming the light that you were born upon this earth to shine.  It is a proven fact that negative emotions take their toll when it comes to both physical and mental health.  So, instead of harming and punishing someone else, we end up penalizing ourselves.
Why is it so challenging to forgive?
Our society is trained in retaliation when we are hurt by others.  We may find it difficult to forgive because we have our own beliefs surrounding giving others a pardon.  We may feel that we cannot forgive a certain person because they will see it as weakness, or because they don’t take any responsibility, or because as children we were judged harshly, and now that is the way we judge others.  There are so many variations that make up the reluctance to forgive.
Lack of forgiveness in one’s life can lead to the constant brooding and preoccupation of “settling the score.”  This consumes the mind of the individual and keeps him or her from leading an authentic life, and keeps them from achieving their own beautiful dreams and goals.  Psychosomatic disorders can follow and may include:  skin diseases like eczema, or hyper or hypopigmentation, allergic rhinitis, migraines and even irritable bowel syndrome.
Keep in mind, forgiveness does not happen overnight and is a constant step by step process:
Try to keep a daily Gratitude Diary – we all have things to be grateful for in our lives.  This is a good way to begin the day by opening the heart and releasing all negative feelings from the body.  When we live as if our life is great, then great things can come to us. 
Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance at a specific time in your life.
Think about what occurred in the situation, your reaction, and how the mixture has impacted your health, life and sense of peace and well -being. 
Process through the anger and other negative feelings with a therapist; It is important to honor what you are feeling, but not allow it to consume your life.
When you are able to choose to do so, forgive the person who has hurt you.  This will allow you to move on, and release the role of victim.  You will no longer be allowing that person to control your life, and your thoughts will be free to create dreams and goals that you can fulfill.
As you let go of vengeful feelings and grudges you are no longer defined by your hurts.
Forgiving serves us especially when we consider the law of physics:  What we focus on in each moment becomes our reality.  Do you want to continually create a reality filled with rage, anger, and people seeking vengeance?  Remember, you must become what you seek to experience in life.
So no matter how deep the wound or scar, seek to forgive…it is your road to freedom.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Trauma of Rape

Did you know that rape is a crime considered to be one of the most emotionally and psychologically damaging to its victims?  The only crime that rates higher in total damage is homicide.  Every year tens of thousands of women and men are raped in America.  It is a savage crime that impairs the physical, mental and social health of its victims.  Not only is the attack often brutal, thus causing physical damage, but the fear of unwanted pregnancy, AIDS, venereal disease, and other infections lurks in the darkness.  However, none of these consequences hold a candle to the mental damage that is left behind after such an attack.

The psychological symptoms are called “the rape trauma syndrome.”

The Shock Phase

This is the first stage a rape victim will often go through.  It can last a few days to many weeks.  This phase is riddled with anxiety, distress, horror, terror, guilt, self- blame, and often self-hatred.  Trust in judgment is lost, as is trust in others.  Insomnia, depression, lack of interest in food, nightmares, petulance, headaches, stomach issues and other health related illnesses may manifest.  These can become chronic if the person who has been traumatized does not seek help.  

The Adjustment Phase

Part two of the rape trauma syndrome comes within a few days or weeks depending on the amount of emotional damage that was inflicted upon the victim.  Often during this phase the victim loses interest in looking for help, and no longer wants to discuss the event.  Some things that may occur:  change of job, phone number, reorganization of her or his life, less stress, and fewer nightmares.  At the six week mark, testing will need to be done for pregnancy and any sexually transmitted diseases.

The Integration Phase

The third and final phase causes the victim to retract from connection with other people.  Often a rape victim’s outlook on life has been permanently altered.  Sometimes during this phase, the depression returns.  A staggering 19% of rape victims will attempt suicide.  Others will manifest emotional or physical illnesses.

Rape in the Military

A crisis of military sexual assault has come to the attention of the Pentagon and the White House.  Approximately 26,000 servicemen and women reported unwanted sexual contact last year.  In 2012, more than 85,000 veterans were given treatment for injuries sustained from some form of sexual abuse.  Often the victims are plagued with post-traumatic stress disorder, physical ailments, depression and high levels of anxiety.  The Department of Veterans Affairs states that one in five women, and one in one hundred men suffer from military sexual trauma.  

The real tragedy is that most cases of sexual assault in the military go undocumented.  This is because, unlike the civilian world, the reports are submitted to the higher level commanders who have been known to brush these crimes under the rug, or even overturn convictions. Also, many times the victims and or their families are threatened with bodily injury and sometimes death by the perpetrators.

If you would like to know more about the little discussed topic of rape in the military, please join us for an important screening of, The Invisible War on June 4, 2013.  Go to the home page of this website to acquire your special invitation!